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Omega-3 Fish Oils: Cellular Health and the Need for Purity

Omega-3 Fish Oils: Cellular Health and the Need for Purity

Omega-3 Fish Oils: A name that has become synonymous with health and wellness in recent years. These essential fatty acids, often heralded as nature's wonder compounds, have gained immense popularity among health enthusiasts, nutritionists, and medical professionals alike. But what exactly are Omega-3 Fish Oils, and why have they become a staple in our daily nutrition?

 At its core, Omega-3 Fish Oils are derived from the tissues of oily fish, providing a rich source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These specific types of fatty acids play a pivotal role in the optimal functioning of our body, particularly at the cellular level. From supporting brain health to ensuring the smooth functioning of our heart, the benefits of Omega-3 are vast and varied.

 However, as with all things related to our health, quality matters. With the market flooded with various Omega-3 supplements, the purity of these products has become a topic of significant importance. As we delve deeper into the world of Omega-3 Fish Oils in this article, we'll uncover the science behind its benefits and emphasise the critical need for purity in our chosen supplements.

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that are essential for the human body. The term "essential" means that our body cannot produce them on its own, making it imperative to obtain them from our diet or supplements.

There are three primary types of Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): Predominantly found in fish oils, EPA plays a crucial role in reducing inflammation in the body. It's also vital for promoting heart health and may help in managing certain mood disorders.
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): Also sourced mainly from fish oils, DHA is a primary structural component of the brain and retina. It's essential for brain development in infants and cognitive function in adults.
  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA): Unlike EPA and DHA, ALA is primarily found in plant-based sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. The human body can convert a small portion of ALA into EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is relatively low.

Natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fish: Especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring.
  • Algae: Certain types of algae can be a direct source of DHA.
  • Plant Oils: Such as flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, and hemp seed oil.

 While fish and algae provide direct sources of EPA and DHA, plant-based sources primarily offer ALA. It's essential to have a balanced intake of all three types to harness the full spectrum of benefits Omega-3 fatty acids offer.

The Science Behind Omega-3 and Cellular Health

At the heart of our body's vast and intricate system lies the cell, the fundamental unit of life. Each cell is encased in a membrane, a protective barrier that controls the passage of substances in and out. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, play a pivotal role in maintaining the health and integrity of these cell membranes.

Role in Cell Membrane Structure and Function:

  • Fluidity: Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain the fluidity of cell membranes. A fluid membrane ensures that cells can adapt to changes, communicate effectively with neighbouring cells, and perform their functions optimally.
  • Receptor Function: Cell membranes house various receptors that respond to external signals. Omega-3s influence the activity of these receptors, ensuring that cells respond appropriately to hormonal signals and other stimuli.

Benefits for Brain Cells and Neurotransmission:

  • Neural Plasticity: DHA, abundant in the brain, supports neural plasticity, which is the ability of the brain's synapses to strengthen or weaken over time. This adaptability is crucial for learning and memory.
  • Mood Regulation: EPA has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce neuroinflammation, potentially influencing mood disorders like depression.

Protection Against Oxidative Stress:

  • Antioxidant Properties: Omega-3 fatty acids can help combat oxidative stress, a damaging process that can harm cell membranes. By reducing oxidative stress, Omega-3s help protect cells from damage and support their longevity.

Support for Immune Cells:

  • Regulating Immune Response: Omega-3s influence the function of immune cells, ensuring a balanced immune response. They can modulate the activity of certain immune cells, promoting the resolution of inflammation rather than its prolongation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are not just beneficial; they are foundational for cellular health. They ensure that each cell, from those in our brain to those in our toes, functions at its best. As we continue to explore the world of Omega-3s, it becomes evident that their impact on our health is profound and multifaceted.

Omega-3's Impact on Cardiovascular Health

The heart, a tireless worker, pumps blood throughout our body, ensuring that every cell receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs. But for the heart to function optimally, it requires care and the right nutrients. Among the most beneficial nutrients for heart health are Omega-3 fatty acids.

Support for Cardiovascular Cells:

  • Vascular Health: Omega-3s help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, ensuring efficient blood flow. Elastic arteries can expand and contract with each heartbeat, facilitating smooth circulation.
  • Heart Rhythm: DHA and EPA play a role in stabilising the electrical activity of heart cells, reducing the risk of arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats.

Reduction in Heart Disease Risks: 

  • Lowering Triglycerides: High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Omega-3 supplements have been shown to significantly reduce triglyceride levels.
  • Reducing Blood Pressure: Regular intake of Omega-3s can lead to modest reductions in blood pressure, especially in individuals with hypertension.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Chronic inflammation is a key player in atherosclerosis, where arteries become clogged with fatty deposits. Omega-3s, with their anti-inflammatory properties, can help reduce the inflammation that contributes to this condition.
  • Decreasing Blood Clotting: Omega-3s can make platelets in the blood less "sticky," reducing the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Promotion of Good Cholesterol:

  • Raising HDL Levels: Omega-3s can increase levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), often referred to as "good" cholesterol. HDL plays a role in removing excess cholesterol from the bloodstream, reducing the risk of arterial plaque buildup.

The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids are both protective and restorative. By incorporating Omega-3s into our diet, we not only support the immediate health of our heart but also invest in its long-term well-being.

Anti-inflammatory Properties of Omega-3

Inflammation, while a natural and necessary response to injury or infection, can become problematic when it persists longer than necessary. Chronic inflammation is linked to a host of health issues, from arthritis to heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, have emerged as powerful allies in the fight against excessive inflammation.

How Omega-3 combats inflammation:

  • Bioactive Compounds: When consumed, EPA and DHA are converted into compounds called resolvins and protectins. These compounds play a pivotal role in resolving inflammation, ensuring it doesn't linger and cause undue damage.
  • Inhibition of Pro-inflammatory Molecules: Omega-3s can inhibit the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as cytokines and eicosanoids.

Benefits for Immune Cell Function and Overall Health:

  • Balanced Immune Response: By modulating the activity of immune cells, Omega-3s ensure a balanced immune response, preventing overreactions that can lead to autoimmune disorders.
  • Joint Health: Regular intake of Omega-3s can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition characterised by inflamed joints. This includes reducing joint pain and stiffness.
  • Gut Health: Omega-3s can help maintain the integrity of the intestinal lining, reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Brain Health: Chronic inflammation in the brain is linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Omega-3s, with their anti-inflammatory properties, offer a protective effect against such conditions.

Potential in Disease Management:

  • Asthma and Allergies: Omega-3s can reduce the production of inflammatory compounds involved in asthma and allergies, potentially reducing symptom severity.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Conditions like obesity and insulin resistance are linked to inflammation. Omega-3s can help mitigate this inflammation, supporting overall metabolic health.

By incorporating these essential fats into our diet, we equip our bodies with the tools to combat excessive inflammation and promote holistic well-being.

The Purity Imperative

In the quest for better health, many individuals turn to Omega-3 supplements to reap the myriad benefits these fatty acids offer. However, not all Omega-3 supplements are created equal. The purity of these products is of paramount importance, as contaminants can not only negate the health benefits but also introduce potential health risks.

Risks of Contaminants in Fish Oils:

  • Heavy Metals: Oceans and water bodies are often polluted with heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium. Fish, especially predatory ones, can accumulate these metals, which may then find their way into fish oil supplements.
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): These industrial chemicals, though banned in many countries, persist in the environment and can accumulate in fish. PCBs have been linked to several health issues, including cancer.
  • Dioxins and Furans: These are toxic compounds that can be found in some fish oil supplements. Long-term exposure can lead to reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, and even cause cancer.

How Impurities Can Negate Health Benefits:

  • Counteractive Effects: While Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, contaminants can induce oxidative stress and inflammation, counteracting the benefits.
  • Potential Health Risks: Consuming impure Omega-3 supplements over time can lead to the accumulation of toxins in the body, increasing the risk of various health issues.

The Process of Molecular Distillation and Its Significance:

  • Purification: Molecular distillation is a process that separates Omega-3 fatty acids from potential contaminants. It uses the difference in boiling points to purify the oil, ensuring a high concentration of Omega-3s and minimal impurities.
  • Safety: Supplements that undergo molecular distillation are generally safer and of higher quality. It's a standard that consumers should look for when choosing an Omega-3 supplement.

In the world of supplements, purity is not just a luxury; it's a necessity. As consumers, it's crucial to be discerning and choose Omega-3 products that prioritise purity, ensuring that we truly benefit from these remarkable fatty acids without compromising our health.

Ensuring Purity and Choosing the Right Omega-3 Supplement

Third-Party Testing and Certifications:

  • Objective, unbiased assessments from third-party labs test Omega-3 products for potency, purity, and safety.
  • Certificates of Analysis (COA) and certifications from organisations like the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) program give consumers confidence in a product's quality.

Sustainable Sourcing and Environmental Considerations:

  • Overfishing poses a significant environmental threat. It's vital to choose brands that source their fish oil sustainably, ensuring marine ecosystems remain unharmed.
  • Traceability, or knowing the journey from sea to supplement, is a hallmark of reliable brands.

Reading Labels: Concentration of EPA and DHA:

  • A top-tier Omega-3 supplement will clearly list the amounts of EPA and DHA it contains, ensuring consumers receive effective doses.
  • Avoiding unnecessary fillers and additives is also key to ensuring product purity.

Storage and Freshness:

  • Omega-3 oils can oxidise, leading to a less effective product.
  • Proper storage methods, like using dark bottles and refrigeration, combined with antioxidants like vitamin E, can maintain product freshness. 

Choosing the right Omega-3 supplement is not just about health; it's also about making responsible and informed choices. By paying attention to labels, understanding the significance of EPA and DHA concentrations, and prioritising sustainability, consumers can ensure they are making a choice that benefits both their health and the planet.

Conclusion and Takeaways: Omega-3 Fish Oils

As we journey through the intricate world of Omega-3 fatty acids, several key insights have emerged:

  • Fundamental to Life: At the very core of our existence are our cells, and Omega-3 fatty acids play an indispensable role in ensuring their optimal function. From maintaining the fluidity of cell membranes to supporting neurotransmission in the brain, the benefits of Omega-3s are both profound and multifaceted.
  • Beyond Just Cells: While the cellular benefits are significant, Omega-3s impact our health at every level. From supporting cardiovascular health to combating inflammation, these fatty acids are truly a cornerstone of holistic well-being.
  • Quality Over Quantity: In the vast market of Omega-3 supplements, not all products are created equal. The purity of these supplements is not just a desirable trait; it's a necessity. Contaminants can negate the benefits of Omega-3s and introduce potential health risks.
  • Informed Choices: As consumers, it's our responsibility to make informed choices. This means understanding labels, prioritising products that emphasise purity, and opting for brands that commit to sustainable sourcing. A pure, high-quality Omega-3 supplement is an investment in our health, and it's one that promises significant returns. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are more than just a health supplement; they are a testament to nature's incredible ability to nourish and heal. As we integrate these essential fats into our lives, it's crucial to do so with awareness, understanding, and a commitment to both personal and planetary well-being.

Unlock the secrets to vibrant health and well-being: Dive into Water for Health and explore a world of holistic hydration and wellness solutions tailored for you.

Further Reading

Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth | NCCIH

An in-depth look at Omega-3 supplements, their benefits, and the research surrounding them. Read more

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints In Sport

A scientific exploration of the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids and their impact on various health conditions. Read more

Omega-3 fatty acids and the heart: New evidence, more questions | Harvard Health

A discussion on the latest research findings about Omega-3 fatty acids and their relationship with heart health. Read more

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All a little bit fishy? Let’s find out if fish oils really help the immune system…

Do Fish Oils Really Help the Immune System?

Fish oils have been a popular dietary supplement for quite some time now. Their rich omega-3 content is most commonly associated with having a positive effect on brain functioning and better heart health.

However, recently they have also been found to boost the immune system and prevent disease by reducing inflammation.

They’re also a great way to get those all-important omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, especially if you aren’t fond of eating fish.

In this article, we’ll discuss the relationship between fish oils and the immune system to find out if there’s anything fishy or if it's all plain sailing.

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DHA and eye health

The Benefits of DHA for Eye Health

The Benefits of DHA for Eye Health

Many people take their eyes for granted, and sadly, it can take experiencing issues like deterioration of vision or suffering from dry eyes to really begin to think about your eye health.

What's more, many people simply accept an opticians prescription rather than looking at ways to improve eye health.

One naturally occurring fatty acid can help enhance your eye health - DHA. DHA is one type of Omega-3 essential fatty acid. As the name suggests, there are three omega-3 fatty acids; alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA, in particular, is beneficial for many aspects of health.

In this post, we explore the many benefits of DHA for eye health.

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The Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Covid Recovery (1)

The Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Covid Recovery (1)

The benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids for Covid recovery have been well documented.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that’s found in fish oil and other types of seafood. Algae is the best source of omega-3 for vegans.

Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in human health and have been shown to help with a variety of conditions including heart disease, cancer, and depression.

Recently, Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to be beneficial for Covid recovery. It’s believed that Omega 3 fatty acids have this effect because they reduce inflammation. This helps improve the flow of blood, which, in turn, helps with tissue repair.

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The Benefits of Omega 3 and Vitamin D to Reduce Autoimmune Disease

The Benefits of Omega 3 and Vitamin D to Reduce Autoimmune Disease

Contrary to popular belief, most autoimmune conditions are a symptom of our Western lifestyle. As such, they can be treated or largely prevented with natural lifestyle changes.

The main problem with how we’ve been taught to live in the UK is that we consume a nutritionally sparse diet. Fast food, chips, crisps, sandwiches, snacks all “fill you up.” That’s a major issue; we’ve been taught to eat to fill ourselves up, when, in reality, to live a full and healthy life we should be focused on eating a nutritionally dense diet.

Other factors such as our sedentary lifestyles play a role in the development of autoimmune conditions. Most people in the West spend way too much time on a chair or sofa.

The thing is, it’s not our fault. We’ve been conditioned to sit down most of the time, plus nutrition has never been high up on the educational agenda. Not to mention, we party and celebrate with foods and beverages that are quite frankly toxic.

That being said, some people are genetically predisposed to developing an autoimmune disease. This commonly comes from the exact same issue but it’s handed down from generation to generation.

We need to learn to live in a more healthy way to live our best life. Thankfully, we have high-quality supplements at hand to get our system to begin to find balance and fight back against all of the damage.

In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids for warding off autoimmune conditions.

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Is Supplementing with DHA Essential for Brain Health?

Is Supplementing with DHA Essential for Brain Health?

Is Supplementing with DHA Essential for Brain Health?

An essential omega-3 fatty acid and a predominant structural component of the brain (roughly made up of 60% fat), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a vital nutrient, playing multi-functional roles for brain health and disease prevention. The turnover of DHA in the brain is swift.

Optimal DHA intake is crucial during pregnancy and also while breastfeeding, as it's vital for brain development in utero and infancy.

DHA is also required for the maintenance of normal brain function in adults. Increasing research suggests that DHA intake above standard nutritional requirements can decrease your risk of or modify the course of several brain diseases.

DHA is 'essential' as our bodies can't synthesise it, so we have to get it from food. The most abundant and absorbable form of DHA is oily fish like sardines, wild salmon and mackerel.

You need to eat two portions of fatty fish a week to provide your body with adequate amounts. You can also ensure you're getting enough by taking a daily fish oil supplement.

While research is ongoing regarding the effects of DHA consumption for several diseases and disorders, positive results have emerged for cognitive decline, Alzheimer's, learning ability, ADHD and depression. In this article, we'll aim to answer many of the most common questions surrounding DHA – and suggest ways to increase your intake.

4 Ways in Which DHA Can Support Brain Health

  • 1) May protect against cognitive decline and reduce Alzheimer's risk

    There are many benefits to supplementing with fish oils .If you don't eat much oily fish, taking supplements might help to improve your cognition.

    In 2013, a randomised controlled trial (RCT) demonstrated this by splitting 176 healthy adults with low DHA status into two groups.

    One took fish oil supplements for six months, while the other took a placebo.

    Memory notably improved in the DHA group versus placebo. Women showed the most significant improvements in episodic memory, and men exhibited the greatest advances in reaction times of working memory.

    A trial published in 2017 showed positive effects from DHA supplementation on hippocampal volume and cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

    240 elderly MCI patients took part in the Chinese study. They also had a loss of volume in the hippocampus (the brain area associated with memory).

    One group supplemented 2g DHA per day for 12 months versus placebo. The DHA group showed significantly improved cognitive function and also had decreased loss of hippocampal volume.

    Higher DHA intake appears to correlate with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. Some evidence suggests that higher DHA intake and increased DHA blood levels may decrease Alzheimer's and dementia risk.

    Chronic inflammation can contribute to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and DHA has the potential to decrease inflammation in the brain.

    Some researchers suggest a promising strategy for Alzheimer's prevention is to maintain a healthy nerve cell population in the brain with consistent DHA consumption, long term.

    2) May aid depression

    Many positive studies researching the link between fish oils and depression focus on both EPA and DHA, and a diet higher in oily fish may decrease depression symptoms.

    While some studies show that a higher proportion of EPA to DHA has more beneficial effects on depression, DHA is still essential for good mental health and deficiency is associated with depression.

    DHA may help mediate depression in women, and much research finds supplementation with both EPA and DHA is most effective for depressive symptoms.

    One small study found a correlation between lower DHA consumption and depression.

    DHA supplementation in healthy pregnant women may reduce the risk of postnatal depression.

    Related: The Standalone Benefits of High EPA Fish Oil

    3) May help to reduce the risk of ADHD and relieve symptoms

    ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders in schoolchildren in the UK.

    Symptoms continue into adulthood, and ADHD often comes with other developmental conditions, including autism , dyslexia, and dyspraxia.

    ADHD symptoms can fall into the categories of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

    Some people may experience inattentiveness but not the other two, and this is known as ADD, which often goes undiagnosed as it can be less noticeable.

    While research into supplementation with omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are inconsistent, enough positive studies warrant further investigation.

    Omega-3 fats are essential for brain and nervous system function, and DHA deficiency in infancy could increase the risk of ADHD in early life.

    Some research shows that supplementing with omega-3 fats, specifically DHA, may improve literacy and behaviour in children with ADHD. 

    A 2013 study showed improved spelling and literacy, hyperactivity and behaviour in children supplementing with high daily doses of either DHA or EPA.

    In children with ADHD, DHA may improve word reading and oppositional behaviour. This change may be more pronounced in children with learning difficulties.

    Supplementing with DHA may also improve spelling, attention, hyperactivity, restlessness and overall ADHD symptoms.

    While several studies show that behaviour in children with ADHD significantly improves with EPA and DHA combined, some researchers think DHA is more important.

    Brain mapping shows that a person with ADHD has a brain that functions differently. It appears that there may be a deficiency of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, which controls dopamine production.

    Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter with many tasks, including our reward-centred behaviour.

    Low noradrenaline and skewed dopamine levels can result in impaired brain function in four parts of the brain:

    • The frontal cortex
    • Limbic system
    • Basal Ganglia
    • Reticular activating system

    These parts of the brain are associated with organisation, executive function, regulation of emotions and attention.

    Deficiencies in these brain areas can result in impulsiveness, inattention, lack of organisation and more.

    DHA supports dopamine and serotonin production, improving mood and sleep. It may also reduce hyperactivity.

    4) DHA is essential for children's brain health  

    Adequate DHA intake is vital during pregnancy and while breastfeeding as it's essential for brain development both in the womb and in infancy.

    DHA deficiency may also increase the risk of ADHD.

    Research shows that children with higher blood levels of DHA and total omega-3 are more likely to pass a test to determine executive function (the ability to plan and organise, recall facts, multi-task, pay attention and switch focus).

    Research suggests that babies born to mothers with increased blood levels of DHA had advanced attention spans well into their second year.

    During their first six months, these infants were two months ahead of those born to mothers with lower DHA levels. 

    Researchers analysing the results of several trials concluded that omega-3 fats, particularly DHA, may improve brain function and mood in children.

    Kids with low literacy ability and those with little DHA in their diet seem to benefit most from having increased omega-3s.

    Deficient DHA could negatively impact learning and behaviour in healthy children. It appears that they might benefit from supplementing with DHA as it can improve brain activity, cognition and behaviour. 

    Poor sleep negatively affects cognitive function, focus, concentration and learning. It can considerably affect school performance and behaviour in children.

    In 2014, researchers noted associations between lower blood DHA levels and increased sleep disturbance. They found that supplementing with DHA improved their sleep, it was less disturbed, and some children had an average of an extra 58 minutes of sleep per night.

    Conclusion

    A trial published in 2017 showed positive effects from DHA supplementation on hippocampal volume and cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

    DHA is considered by many to be a brain nutraceutical. It's a primary structural component of the brain and is crucial for brain growth, development, and maintaining normal brain function in adults.

    It may help to protect against cognitive decline, reduce Alzheimer's risk and aid depression. DHA may also help to improve ADHD symptoms and increase brain activity and cognition in healthy children.

    It can enhance brain function and mood in children with inadequate DHA in their diet and those with low literacy.

    You can't synthesise DHA and must get it from food by eating two portions of oily fish per week (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, wild salmon, herring etc.).

    Sadly, many people are justifiably concerned about the toxicity in fish from heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants and opt for a fish oil supplement instead.

    UnoCardio X2 is an ultra-pure fish oil from WHC that's third-party tested for purity, freshness and stability. Providing 420mg of DHA per dose, this high-strength supplement helps you meet your daily quota of essential fatty acids. It is currently ranked #3 (of 54) in Labdoor's independent league table of fish oils. Each pack provides a two-month supply.

    Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

    Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click  here  to find out more.

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fish oil capsules spillling out of bottle

The Many Ways That Fish Oils Can Benefit Your Health

The Many Ways That Fish Oils Can Benefit Your Health

Omega-3 fats are incredibly beneficial for health. The most important are:

  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

ALA is an 'essential' omega-3 fatty acid found in plant foods and necessary for good health. However, only a small proportion of ALA converts into EPA and DHA, which also have a wealth of health benefits.

The most absorbable form of EPA and DHA comes from oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Fatty fish also provide some vitamin D, a range of other vitamins and minerals and healthy protein.

For adequate amounts of EPA and DHA, eating two portions of sustainable, oily fish a week is recommended. Of course, you'll also benefit from all the other nutrients that fish has to offer.

It's best to avoid fish heavy in mercury like shark, marlin, swordfish and tuna.

However, not everyone regularly eats oily fish – and many people choose to take daily fish oil or omega-3 supplementation instead…

Fish Oil Benefits: 14 Reasons to Consider Regular Intake

  • 1. Anti-inflammatory effects

    Numerous researchers believe that low-grade chronic inflammation underlies many diseases. 

    Several factors contribute to low-grade inflammation, including exposure to environmental toxins, including air pollution, smoking, poor diet, chronic stress, and obesity.

    Long-term inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues and organs, leading to premature ageing, chronic conditions and diseases including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cancer.

    Omega-3 fats are highly beneficial for our health with potent anti-inflammatory properties.

    Nutritionally, we need a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. Sadly, the typical Western diet is high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 fats, which encourages chronic low-grade inflammation.

    It's essential to increase our omega-3 intake, and fish oils, in particular, can reduce inflammatory markers and oxidative stress.

    2. May protect heart health, reduce cardiovascular disease risk

    Fish eaters appear to have a lower rate of cardiovascular disease. The most recent meta-analysis of fish consumption found that the higher the fish intake, the lower the risk of fatal coronary heart disease (up to 13%).

    Some research shows that supplementing with fish oils can reduce heart disease risk factors, including lowering high triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol.

    It may also help those with high blood pressure and vascular inflammation, decreasing the risk of arterial plaques.

    Fish oils may protect against blood clots and those at high risk of arrhythmia and potential heart attack. Other research shows they may improve the survival rate of those who've suffered a heart attack.

    Related: Fish Oil Helps Your Heart – Details of the Harvard 2019 Study

    3. Good for your brain

    Omega-3 fats are necessary for normal brain development. During pregnancy and lactation, it's beneficial to consume DHA for fetal brain development.

    Some experts are concerned about the amount of mercury in fish and its potentially harmful effects on a developing brain. On balance, most agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks, but avoid fish high in mercury.

    Research is mixed, but several positive studies show fatty fish consumption protects brain function and helps to delay cognitive decline.

    Oily fish may also improve cognitive function in the elderly.

    The higher the intake, the better it gets. One study found the maximum effect at 75g of fish per day.

    One hospital study found that fish oil supplements slowed cognitive decline and brain shrinkage in elderly patients with normal cognition.

    A small study gave fish oils to patients with varying degrees of cognitive impairment for 4 to 17 months. The fish oils reduced inflammation in the brain of those with mild cognitive impairment, and their symptoms improved.

    Some evidence also suggests that higher DHA intake and increased DHA blood levels are linked to a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

    Inflammation is associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Due to its power to increase pro-resolution molecules in the brain, reducing inflammation, DHA consumption could help to lower the rates of neurological diseases like these.

    4. May reduce diabetes risk

    Chronic inflammation and increased oxidative stress are associated with increased diabetes risk. The anti-inflammatory action of fish oils may help to reduce this. 

    Patients with type 2 diabetes could develop complications like cognitive impairment, dementia, and eye problems like diabetic retinopathy.

    According to one animal study, fish oils may reduce oxidative stress in the brain and decrease the risk of cognitive decline in diabetics

    Another six-year observational study tracked the fish oil consumption of over 3,000 type 2 diabetic men and women between 55 and 80.

    Those who met the target of 500mg of fish oil per day, or two portions of oily fish a week, were 48% less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy.

    5. May aid weight loss

    Obesity is linked to increased inflammation and a greater risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It appears that those who eat more fish have a lower risk of obesity.

    Not all studies agree that omega-3 fatty acids aid weight loss, but several show positive results.

    Some research shows that fish oils may improve body composition, and this might be due to a shift in metabolism that uses fuel for energy rather than storage.

    A 2007 study demonstrated that fish oil supplements combined with regular exercise could improve metabolic and cardiovascular health and aid weight loss.

    Other researchers carrying out a small study found that dietary fish oils decreased body fat.

    In one meta-analysis of 21 studies, researchers concluded that fish oils might help to reduce abdominal fat, particularly when combined with other lifestyle changes.

    6. Cancer

    Population studies are inconclusive as to whether fish consumption can protect against cancer.

    While they suggest that there may be some protection against colorectal cancer, there could be other contributing lifestyle factors such as lower meat intake in fish eaters or a generally healthier lifestyle.

    That said, some research does support the idea that fish oils can reduce the risk of some cancers, and there needs to be more analysis to reach a more conclusive answer.

    Low-grade chronic inflammation and cancer are linked, so, arguably, fish oils can protect against this disease due to their anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory action.

    A high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio from the Western diet may also contribute to cancer, so increasing omega-3 intake to balance this out could be beneficial.

    Some studies show omega-3 fatty acids have anti-tumour effects, as demonstrated in cancer cell lines, animal models and humans. They may also improve the impact of conventional cancer treatments.

    According to some research, women with previously diagnosed and treated early-stage breast cancer with higher EPA and DHA levels from fish oils have a 25% less chance of further complications than those with less intake.

    A scientific review published in 2014 also found that EPA, DHA and ALA can inhibit breast tumour growth in women with breast cancer.

    Omega-3 fats also have the potential to decrease the risk of prostate cancer and slow its progression. In a 2011 study, men who took fish oils showed decreased cancer proliferation.

    7. Improves mental health, protects against depression and anxiety

    The brain is the fattiest organ at around 60% fat, so eating omega-3 fats is essential for balancing moods.

    Healthy omega-3 fats, particularly the EPA and DHA found in oily fish, are critical for the development and function of the central nervous system and brain.

    Often, people with depression have lower omega-3 levels, which may contribute to mood disorders.

    While evidence of the antidepressant effects of fish oils is conflicted, some studies support their use for relieving depression symptoms, particularly fish oil supplements with higher EPA. 

    Currently, research is limited. Some researchers believe that further investigation is warranted as there is mounting evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in depression.

    8. Helps with postnatal depression

    Whether it's due to low intake or rapid depletion during pregnancy and breastfeeding, low omega-3 levels are a risk factor for postnatal depression.

    A 2018 review concluded that dietary supplementation with EPA and DHA during and after pregnancy might help to reduce the risk and symptoms of the condition. 

    9. May benefit ADHD

    Omega-3 fats are essential for brain and nervous system function. Low DHA in infancy could increase the risk of ADHD in early life.

    Research is inconsistent regarding the effectiveness of fish oils in treating ADHD. However, some studies have shown positive results.

    A 2015 study ran over 16 weeks and gave 40 boys with ADHD versus 39 typically developing boys, 650mg EPA and 650mg DHA daily.

    The outcome was positive for both sets of boys versus the placebo group, with parents observing a significantly positive effect on their attention span. 

    Another trial showed that supplementing with omega-3 fats, specifically DHA, may improve literacy and behaviour in children with ADHD.

    10. May protect against childhood allergies

    Promising research suggests that fish oils may help to protect against childhood allergies

    Some evidence indicates that eating fish during pregnancy may reduce the risk of atopic conditions for offspring and children who eat fish in early childhood. 

    Fish oil supplements could protect against the effects of pollution and dust mite allergies in children and may also protect against food allergies.

    11. Protects vision, eye function

    Our eyes need omega-3 fats to function correctly. Both your brain and eyes have high DHA content.

    DHA is concentrated in the retina's outer rod segments and is associated with better quality vision. It's accumulated in the eyes late in pregnancy and in early infancy.

    Low levels of omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), so eating fish is associated with a decreased risk

    Dietary supplementation with omega-3 fats may also help to slow the progression of AMD for those at an early or intermediate stage of the condition.

    A combination of EPA and DHA, lutein and zeaxanthin may also help reduce AMD risk.

    12. May ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

    Fish oils have potent anti-inflammatory powers, which may help relieve the pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

    EPA and DHA may also help to improve joint lubrication.

    While research is limited, some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis experience relief from their symptoms when supplementing with fish oils.

    Some clinical trials also report the ability of omega-3 fatty acid supplements to relieve arthritic pain as effectively as NSAIDs like ibuprofen. 

    One trial had similar neck and back pain results, with 125 patients taking 1200 to 2400mg fish oils daily for 75 days. 59% discontinued their NSAID prescription for the pain, 60% said overall pain had improved, and 60% also stated their joint pain had improved.

    13. Can promote thick, lustrous hair

    Fish oils may help to improve hair quality and thickness

    Women with female pattern baldness may reduce hair loss and improve hair growth by including fish oils in their diet. 

    14. Encourages healthy skin

    An unhealthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 increases inflammation and affects your skin. Fish oils can help you reach a healthier 2:1 ratio.

    EPA and DHA may help to improve skin barrier function and hinder UV-induced inflammation and hyperpigmentation. Omega-3 fats can also help to relieve dry, itchy skin caused by dermatitis.

    Fish oils also have anti-ageing effects, hydrating and improving skin tone, protecting collagen and preventing premature skin ageing.

    Conclusion

    While research is limited, some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis experience relief from their symptoms when supplementing with fish oils. 

    While research varies, it's clear that omega-3 fats and fish oils have a wealth of health benefits.

    EPA and DHA from fish oils are vital for many bodily functions, including neurological and brain development and healthy vision.

    Their potent anti-inflammatory and immune system modulating effects may help to protect against several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. 

    Adding more oily fish to your diet twice a week is a healthy way to obtain adequate amounts of EPA and DHA. Plus, you also get all the other nutrients whole fish provides.

    Fish oils are among the most popular supplements, and you may prefer to take these. Just make sure you go for contaminant-free, sustainable, high potency, excellent quality fish capsules or oil.

    If you suffer from chronic disease or are taking medication, always seek medical advice before taking any supplements or changing your diet.

    Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback

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Is Algae Oil As Good As Fish Oil? A Look at Vegan Omega-3

Is Algae Oil As Good As Fish Oil? A Look at Vegan Omega-3

Is Algae Oil As Good As Fish Oil? A Look at Vegan Omega-3

I remember my grandmother boasting that cod liver oil was essential for health.

The issue for me was that I was vegetarian, so I didn’t even look into it at the time. Fast forward twenty years, and I’ve researched omega-3 fatty acids in great detail.

And my granny was correct. Well, partly. The reason that cod liver oil or other omega-3 fatty acids are good for you is actually all due to algae.

Fish eat algae – then humans eat fish. Oily fish like salmon and anchovies are normally high in omega-3s.

Getting your omega-3s via fish is like getting them secondhand, because microalgae are the real producers of EPA and DHA (omega-3s) - not the fish.

Omega-3 DHA is a Whole Lot More Than Just Fish Oil

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is an essential omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in oily fish such as salmon and anchovies.

Anchovies are the more sustainable choice, as they put less pressure on global fish stocks. You can also get DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from other marine organisms, such as certain forms of algae.

In fact, microalgae are the initial omega-3 producers in aquatic food chains. DHA is known as an “essential” fatty acid because it must be consumed via the diet.

Most scientists estimate that there are about 30 trillion cells in the human body. DHA is found in all of the cell membranes in the body and is required for protection from pathogens.

The amount of DHA in your body may affect physical cellular makeup such as fluidity, flexibility, and thickness. As well as serving as ligands for a wide range of receptors. Meaning the behaviour and responsiveness of cells depends on the amount of DHA available. 

RelatedWhy Use a High DHA Fish Oil?

What is Algae Oil?

Algae oil is a type of lipid extracted from microalgae. There are many benefits of choosing algae oil over omega-3s extracted from fish.

Firstly, the only reason fish are high in omega-3 PUFAs is because they eat algae in the first place. Algae is sustainable, and abundant in most aquatic systems

Because the initial source of omega-3 PUFAs is microalgae, you could say that algae is the primary source of DHA and EPA.

A specific type of algae known as Gigartina atropurpurea or “Red Marine Algae” has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  since 300 B.C.

Modern scientific studies have confirmed that consuming red algae can deactivate viruses

RelatedCan Red Marine Algae Really Help Boost Your Immune System?

The Benefits of Plant-based Algae Oil Over Fish Oil

Choosing algae oil over fish oil is the best option for vegetarians and vegans. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA, ALA and EPA are found in high quantities in algae oil.

One of the benefits of choosing algae is that algal oils lack cholesterol or contaminants. Many fish oils contain contaminants such as heavy metals including lead, arsenic and cadmium. 

Other toxic compounds can be found in fish oil reducing their health-boosting properties.

Algal oils are also better for the environment. Overfishing occurs due to the property rights of the sea being vague. Eager fishermen use trawlers that decimate the population of the ocean. Choosing algae oil over fish oil is the responsible choice going forward. 

RelatedSpirulina: A Blue-Green Algae That Boosts the Immune System, Reduces Candida and Protects Cells from Damage

Is Algae Oil Good For Hair?

Animal lovers the world over have been using dietary fish oil to give their beloved canines a luscious coat.

Since the original source of the omega-3s is algae, consuming algae should have similar properties in humans.

Many studies have shown that omega-3s may boost hair growth and reduce hair loss. The studies were conducted with fish oil. However, one study has found that the amount of omega 3s in algae is comparable to fish oil

You wouldn’t necessarily rub the algae oil on your hair directly. Rather, you’d add it to your diet.

In saying that, some bloggers have tried swapping out the mighty coconut oil for algae oil and found it to be lighter and better-tasting when using it to oil pull or treat their nails.

I think I’ll be giving this natural beauty tip a go, watch this space!

RelatedHow Toxic is Your Fish Oil? The Case for Clean Supplements

Possible Algae Oil Omega-3 Side Effects

People often ask if algae oil is safe. There are several reports of adverse reactions to fish oil, but not specifically to algae oil. Like anything in life, it’s about balance.

If you take too much you could experience adverse reactions such as vitamin A toxicity, especially if your algae oil has added vitamin A.

Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity are dizziness, nausea and skin irritation. When buying an omega-3 supplement of any kind, make sure to check the vitamin A content. 

In some cases, the fat in fish oil has been found to produce acid reflux and indigestion. I’m not sure if it’s the same for algae oil, as there have been limited studies about it.

Again, the main thing is to make sure that you stick within the guidelines and don’t overindulge.

Flaxseed oil is another popular omega-3 source for vegetarians and vegans and has been associated with increased bowel movements.

Similarly, fish oil and other omega-3 supplements could cause diarrhoea. To mitigate side effects from omega-3 supplements ensure you take them with a meal and stick within the recommended daily dose. 

The Bottom Line

For years, fish oil has been the major focus when it comes to omega-3s. But now we’re turning to more sustainable forms of DHA, ALA and EPA, such as algal oil.

It just so happens that microalgae is the original source of omega-3s for the entire food chain. Therefore, algal oil is just as potent in beneficial omega-3s as fish oil.

Plus high-quality algal oil doesn’t contain many of the contaminants found in some fish oils.

Is algae oil as good as fish oil? In many respects, algal oil trumps fish oil in purity, sustainability, and is the main choice for vegans and vegetarians. 

Of course, fish oil remains a viable option for many and provides a generous helping of valuable omega-3 fatty acids. Do what works for you, and reap the benefits.

Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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The Health Benefits of Combining Vitamin D and Omega-3

The Health Benefits of Combining Vitamin D and Omega-3

The Health Benefits of Combining Vitamin D and Omega-3

Have you ever driven all the way home, deep in thought, then wondered how on earth you got home? Well, that was your subconscious mind, programmed to carry out the actions of driving through rigorous training and habit.

Why, then, don’t we treat other aspects of our lives in the same manner? For example, taking supplements or going for a run?

We’ve all done it. Started a new healthy routine, then fallen back into old habits. It’s easy to kick yourself for doing so. But the truth is, it’s not your fault!

The main reason that we default to previous habits is our subconscious mind. This part of our mind is functioning 95% of the time, and unlike the conscious mind, it functions without consent. Your subconscious mind is designed to conserve energy by making you carry out habits without any input.

What I’m suggesting is that you get into some daily habits or routines that include taking your supplements at certain times. Of course, you’d need to ensure that you took the right vitamins at the correct time. What is the right time to take your vitamins, I hear you ask...

Is it better to take vitamin D every day or once a week? Can I take all my vitamins at once? Is it good to take omega-3 every day? These are some of the questions I’ll be answering in this article. Firstly, let’s address a common and interesting question…

Does Omega-3 Contain Vitamin D?


Let’s first address what omega-3 and vitamin D are. Omega-3 is normally derived from fish oil. However, there are plant-based sources such as algae, nut, and seed oils.

But it’s important to note that algal omega 3 is the best source for vegetarians and vegans. The nut and seed oils don’t contain DHA, nor does the body convert the ALA to DHA.

Interestingly, algal oil can be used to extract vitamin D3, via algal fermentation. This process is fairly new to human food consumption, plus often manufacturers only refine the oil for omega-3s. 

Similarly, fish oil contains some vitamin D. For example, 100g of sardine oil contains 8.3 µg. Meaning you’d only get a fraction of your daily vitamin D dose by consuming a significant portion – 100g of fish oil.

I’m sure you don’t want to be sipping a sardine oil beverage to get your vitamin D! Am I right or right?

To get the right amount of both vitamin D and omega-3s, it’s a good idea to take a supplement of both. Unless you’re eating more than three portions of oily fish per week. 

Learn moreHow to Support the Body’s Immune Response with Omega-3

What Omega 3 and Vitamin D are Good For


Good question. Both omega-3 and vitamin D, when taken together, have heart-protective effects.

In a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine scientists explored omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation and heart health. They recruited almost 26,000 people over the age of 50, with no history of heart disease. They were then divided into 4 groups; one was given 50 µg and 840 mg of Lovaza (an omega-3 rich drug) while Group 2 took vitamin D and a placebo; the third group took the omega-3s and a placebo, and the final group took two placebos. 

Five years later, researchers found that the participants who were given omega-3s were 28% less likely to suffer a heart attack compared with those given a placebo.

However, if the benefits from the omega-3 supplement only happened when the participants ate less fish eg. less than 1.5 servings of fish per week. The study concluded that combining omega 3 and vitamin D could reduce heart related conditions by 25%.

RelatedWhy You Should Combine Vitamin D with B12 and Magnesium

Best Time to Take Vitamins; Water Soluble vs Fat Soluble

Both vitamin D and omega-3 are fat-soluble, and best taken with a meal that contains healthy fats. Can you take omega-3 at night? Sure. But you must consume them with a meal, and it’s advisable to finish eating at 7 pm to allow your system to relax and absorb the nutrients.

Conversely, water-soluble vitamins are best taken on an empty stomach. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and all of your B vitamins

This takes me nicely onto my point at the beginning of this article…

To get the most out of supplements, and the bioavailability of the nutrients in food for that matter, it’s a good idea to create a schedule. To get into a habit of taking your supplements at a specific time each day. That might look like:

Vitamin D and omega-3 – taken at mealtime in the late afternoon.

Vitamin C, probiotics, and vitamin B – taken first thing in the morning

Possible Side Effects of Omega-3 and Vitamin D

It’s very unlikely that you’d experience side effects by taking a high-quality omega-3 and vitamin D supplement. Especially if you keep the supplement within the daily guidelines advised by the World Health Organisation or the NHS.

Very rarely people can experience a skin rash, burping, indigestion, or taste impairment. If you’re concerned about the health effects of supplements, for example how they might react with medication, and other aspects of your health then it’s a good idea to speak to a trusted healthcare professional. 

RelatedAre Vitamin D Supplement Side Effects Grossly Overstated?

Take-Home Message

Once you’ve decided the daily dose of vitamins that fits your current circumstances, make taking your supplements a habit.

Creating a ritual that you follow every day at set times is one of the key ways to form a new habit.

Some vitamins are best taken at specific times of the day, ie. water-soluble vitamins in the morning and fat-based supplements with a meal. Plus some supplements are best taken together for optimal effect.

Ensuring that you take the correct vitamins on a daily basis can form an essential part of a healthy lifestyle routine.

Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Supplements for protection from 5G and EMF radiation

How to Support the Body’s Immune Response with Omega-3

How to Support the Body’s Immune Response with Omega-3

One of the best ways to enhance overall health is to boost your immune system, by following a healthy lifestyle. This can mean distinctly different things to each individual.

Eating a balanced diet bursting with colour and whole foods is a great first step. Also consuming foods that have immune-boosting ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin D and essential fatty acids.

We’ve known that essential fatty acids (a.k.a omega-3s, EFAs or n-3 PUFAs) boost your immune system for the past 50 years. However, because there was previously no way to test for omega-3 deficiency, the research went largely unnoticed – until recently.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the connection between omega-3 fatty acids and the immune system. Exploring recent scientific research to discover why and how omega-3s boost the immune system.

We'll also look at evidence-based health benefits of omega-3s and where they come from.

Omega-3s – The Basic Building Blocks of Cell Membranes


Omega-3s offer many health-promoting benefits including boosting heart health; this is widely known.

More recently researchers have been looking into using fatty acids to prevent or treat inflammatory and immune diseases.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are the basic building blocks of cell membranes.

They are considered “essential” because they cannot be created in the body and must be consumed in the diet.

N-3 PUFAs are made up of a kind of fat known as a lipid, more specifically “phospholipids”. Lipids are molecules that have poor solubility in water.

The lipid-solubility of a cell membrane influences how easily particles can permeate the cell wall. Because the cell (or plasma) membrane separates the interior of a cell from its surrounding environment.

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids strengthens the cell walls. This includes the membranes of your immune cells.

RelatedProven Scientific Benefits of Combining Omega-3 & Vitamin B

Which Omega-3 is Best? (Omega-3 Purity)


There’s no doubt about it, omega 3 fatty acids are great for overall health.

However, you must make sure that you look for the purest products available.

Contaminants from the environment can be absorbed by fish. These include heavy metals, chemicals, and microplastics.

For this reason, care should be taken to find foods and supplements that are free from contaminants and toxins.

Omega-3 fatty acids are susceptible to oxidation and should be carefully handled and stored to ensure that their beneficial properties are kept intact.

The bioavailability of omega-3s is highest when the source is pure and the producer takes great care to test for contaminants.

The good news is that if you are vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to worry about fish absorbing toxins. Instead, you can eat the plants that fish consume directly.

Rather than eating the nutrients filtered through fish, you can choose to consume omega-3 rich algae.

Your immune system is your body’s defence system, tasked with fighting off foreign particles that enter your body and ensuring all systems function smoothly.

The immune system also has its own memory, that it uses to ward off pathogens that it’s experienced in the past.

Learn moreHow Toxic Is Your Fish Oil? The Case for Clean Supplements

Does Omega 3 Increase White Blood Cells?

Hundreds of research papers have now been published that demonstrate the relationship between omega-3s and the immune system.

We know that the structural components of omega-3s – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – can suppress inflammation. Additionally, researchers have explored other functions of omega-3 and the immune system.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology found that DHA- and EPA-rich oils enhance the function of B cells. B cells are a type of white blood cell used to fight pathogens and ward off disease. Meaning your white blood cells may not be increased, but they will be powered up if you consume omega-3s.  Your immune cell membranes structurally change when fatty acids are consumed.

Scientists use the term “Lipid rafts” to describe the cellular membrane. Scientists have now found that omega-3 fatty acids can help rebuild the cell membrane (or lipid rafts) in T-cells (immune cells). Allowing us to further understand the underlying mechanisms whereby omega-3s can strengthen your immune cells.

How Omega-3s Help Your Body Eliminate Pathogens


A type of white blood cell called a “macrophage” plays an important role in eliminating pathogens from your body.

They are like tiny Pac Men, going through your body and detecting alien invaders. After a pathogen is found, the macrophage recruits immune cells from both the innate and adaptive immune systems.

They also ingest foreign materials, a process that is aided by omega-3s. With their immune defence system on high alert, your body can mount an effective immune response.

Omega-3 fatty acids alter macrophage function by producing cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins that can communicate between lipid layers. Omega-3s also aid in the production of chemokines that attract immune cells to an infected area.

Boosted macrophage activity from omega-3 fatty acids happens because of changes in gene regulation. In the immune system, the main changes are due to the DHA component of omega-3s.

Macrophages can also be activated to promote tissue repair after viruses and pathogens are eliminated.

RelatedFish Oil for Autism: Could EPA, DHA Benefit Autism & ADHD?

Six Sources of Omega-3s (Plus Recommended Daily Dose)

Fish is the most common source of omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet. 71% of omega 3 fatty acids come from fish, while just 36% is from cereal products.

Vegetables, seeds and nuts are another sources of omega-3s, but they are not normally consumed in high enough quantities.

Currently, the recommended daily dose of omega-3 is 1.1g.

Here’s a question: why do people say that fish is a good source of omega-3s?

The truth is, it’s not the fish – rather it’s what they eat.

Fish eat algae that contain high levels of EPA and DHASeafish often contains high levels of mercury and should be avoided.

Instead, look for more sustainable, small species fish such as anchovies.

The six sources of omega 3 are:

  • Algae
  • Seaweed (undaria pinnatifida, also known as wakame)
  • Fish
  • Cereal
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Vegetables

Related6 Foods High in Omega-3, and Why You Should Eat More

Conclusion

As you can see, omega-3 fatty acids play a pivotal role in your immune system.

By strengthening cell walls, helping macrophages consume pathogens and creating a strong immune response in the presence of a virus, pathogen or bacterial invasion, omega-3s help to upregulate our natural immunity and keep us fighting fit.

Sadly, most people in the developed world consume just 10% of the recommended daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Which is nowhere enough to support optimal immune function.

Supplementing with a high-quality omega-3 fish oil is an indubitably good way of upping your intake of fatty acids and avoiding the pitfalls of deficiency.

Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Fish Oil capsules arranged in the shape of a fish

Is Fish Oil As Beneficial as Exercise for Certain People?

Is Fish Oil As Beneficial as Exercise for Certain People?

Say what? Fish oil can save me the trouble of exercising, freeing up more time to lounge on the couch while binging on my favourite TV programmes? Not so fast.

Being passionate advocates of health and wellbeing, we will never endorse any routine that fails to encompass exercise. Our bodies were designed to move – that’s non-negotiable.

That said, a fascinating new study has shed light on the benefits of one type of fish oil; benefits that could be very similar to those engendered by aerobic exercise.

When you consider the other myriad benefits of omega-3, the question isn’t why you should you take supplemental fish oil; it’s why wouldn’t you? Read on to learn more about the study…

What the 2020 Fish Oil Study Involved


The study in question was just published in the British Journal of Nutrition, a peer-reviewed publication that encompasses the entire spectrum of nutritional science.

Conducted by researchers from both Bournemouth University and the University of Roehampton, it sought to measure the efficacy of supplementation on parameters such as mobility and cognitive function in elderly females.

The paper opened by acknowledging the “evidence suggesting positive interactions between exercise and omega-3 fatty acids on physical and cognitive function in older 30 adults.”

The study involved three subject groups, each composed of females aged 60 and over:

• One took a high DHA (1,000mg) multi-nutrient supplement coupled with exercise

• One took a placebo supplement coupled with exercise

• The third group took both a high DHA multi-nutrient supplement and a placebo.

You might wonder what other ingredients the multi-nutrient supplement contained. While DHA was the primary component, the capsules also contained 160mg EPA, 20 µg vitamin B12, 245mg folic acid, 124mg phosphatidylserine (PS), 240mg ginkgo biloba standardised leaf extract, and 20mg vitamin E.

The exercise intervention, incidentally, consisted of two weekly group sessions on a Spinner Fit stationary bike, overseen by a qualified trainer. The study ran for 24 weeks.

RelatedDHA Supplement Benefits – Why Use a High DHA Fish Oil?

Fish Oil Effects on Brain Function & Memory

At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that the multi-nutrient supplement in question produced similar beneficial effects on brain function, as exercise.

According to lead researcher Dr Simon Dyall, a lecturer in Clinical Neuroscience at Roehampton, “Supplementation may be able to mitigate some of the effects of low physical activity on decline in cognitive function in the elderly.”

The main areas researchers looked at were verbal memory (the ability to recall information) and executive function (the processing of information and subsequent planning), considered two crucial measures of cognitive health.

The take-home? Older people, particularly women, should consider fish oil supplementation, especially if they are unable to exercise regularly.

If exercise isn’t a problem, it might be wise to add fish oil to your routine anyway – particularly given the outcomes of the 2019 Harvard study.

That particular study encompassed a population of over 120,000 adults in 13 randomised trials worldwide, and found that people who took over 840mg of omega-3 fish oil per day enjoyed an 8% reduced risk of heart attack and death from coronary heart disease.

Cognitive Benefits Extend to Youngsters

While the Bournemouth/Roehampton study looked specifically at seniors, considerable research supports the idea that omega-3 can nurture the cognitive health of youngsters.

A recent review of the scientific literature, published in the journal Nutrients, indicated that “a dosage >450mg DHA + EPA per day does lead to improved cognition in typically developing children and adolescents.”

The researchers cautioned that for such a benefit to manifest, the individual’s omega-3 levels, as measured by the Omega-3 Index (O3I), must rise by at least 6%.

33 studies were considered when producing the review.

RelatedOmega-3 Fish Oils Could Boost Children’s Brainpower

Conclusion

When studies like this come across our radar, it really validates our faith in the power of nutrition to enhance health.

If there were a league table of healthy nutrients, there’s no doubt omega-3 would figure highly. In fact, it’s a big part of what makes the Mediterranean diet one of the best in the world.

It’s also a big part of the reason why Japan is famed for its longevity. On average, Japanese people eat around three ounces of fish daily, meaning they enjoy excellent heart health in the main. Indeed, Japan has the lowest coronary heart disease mortality rate in the entire world.

If you’re looking to add a daily fish oil to your diet, give UnoCardio 1000 a try. Independently validated as the world’s best-quality fish oil by independent laboratory Labdoor (for five years running, no less), it’s a highly pure blend of EPA and DHA, sourced sustainably from non-endangered, small-species fish. Third-party tested for quality, it also contains added vitamin D.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Omega-3 fish oil capsules on blue surface

How Toxic is Your Fish Oil? The Case for Clean Supplements

How Toxic is Yor Fish Oil? The Case for Clean Supplements

It's sad but true that most seafood today is highly contaminated with toxic metals, industrial compounds, pesticides and herbicides.

Heavy metals like mercury, lead, copper, cadmium and arsenic naturally occur in our environment, but they significantly increase via industrial processes and agricultural chemicals. These, along with pesticides and other harmful contaminants leech into water sources.

Fish and marine life, in general, are exposed to concentrated levels, which accumulate in their organs and tissues, raising their risk of toxicity, particularly larger fish.

By now, many of us are aware of the health benefits associated with consuming oily fish at least twice a week. More of us are also becoming more informed about the potentially harmful contaminants in fish which is concerning – especially if you're pregnant or have young children.

A way to minimise your exposure to heavy metals such as mercury, for example, is to eat fish with lower levels such as anchovies, Atlantic mackerel and wild Alaskan salmon. Fish to avoid – those with higher levels – include tuna, sea bass, monkfish, halibut and swordfish. Greenpeace has a full list here.

To limit your exposure to PCBs, avoid fish like farmed salmon which have higher levels. Fish from contaminated areas with the highest levels tend to be bottom-feeding fish and larger predator fish. PCBs deposit in the fatty tissues and fatty fish are most at risk, so it's recommended to remove the skin and fatty areas and grill or bake fish to allow the fat to drain off.

Some people prefer to take fish oils as an alternative to regularly eating oily fish as it can provide some of the health benefits without the toxins. But not all fish oils are created equal. Toxic levels vary and according to researchers, 11%–62% of products are oxidised, risking exposure to unacceptable levels of oxidation which is potentially harmful to health.

This demonstrates how crucial it is to find a reputable fish oil brand which performs rigorous testing to ensure outstanding quality and safety.

What to look for in a fish oil


Quality and purity – This is paramount. You want to ensure your fish oil supplement is certified and provides ample nutritional value made from the finest, purest ingredients.

The quality should surpass standard requirements and ensure the product is free from harmful contaminants. Find a brand with label accuracy and projected efficacy to meet its claims. 

Transparency – The product you choose should be open about where their fish oils come from, and what laboratory testing is performed to determine how safe and clean it is. 

Sustainability – Any fish oil supplement worth taking should come from sustainably-sourced fish.

High potency – Get a fish oil with a high concentration of omega-3 EPA and DHA per capsule. 

Wild sources – Steer clear of fish oils made from farmed fish (see below) and stick to ones made from wild fish.

So, what contaminants should you be aware of when it comes to ensuring your fish oil supplement is of the highest standard?

Fish oil contaminants to watch out for

Mercury

Although it occurs naturally in our environment, mercury levels rise significantly due to industrial activity. Once airborne, it invariably ends up in rivers, lakes and the sea.

It converts to methylmercury and deposits itself in marine food as well as passing over fishes’ gills in the water. It works its way up the aquatic food chain from microorganisms like algae to herbivores, then carnivores.

Larger and older fish tend to have higher levels as it has longer to bioaccumulate (become concentrated in their bodies). Large predatory fish like sharks and swordfish who feed on other fish that are loaded with mercury have higher levels still.

Mercury levels also depend on the area in which they swim. Methylmercury binds to protein which means that it accumulates in the muscles and tissue of fish.

According to Labdoor, when we ingest it, around 95% of methylmercury from fish is absorbed in the digestive tract. From there, it attempts to bind to molecules in protein-rich tissue, and roughly 10% manages to pass through the blood-brain barrier (which is not easy to do) and enter our brains.

Another 5% enters our bloodstream.

A 2003 U.S. study analysed 89 participants’ mercury levels over one year. They found that 89% of them had levels exceeding the maximum reference intake set by U.S. Environmental Protection. A high proportion of those with a diet rich in fish fell into this category.  

If you eat high amounts of mercury-laden fish, over time, it can accumulate in your brain and contribute to some serious health problems.

It can affect your neurological system and lead to a decrease in fine motor skills, memory, concentration and dexterity, cause tingling around the mouth, ataxia, weakness, poor vision and hearing, and tremors.

It can also inhibit enzymes, disturb DNA synthesis and cause oxidative stress and inflammation – mainly in the brain. 

PCBs

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic industrial compounds which are banned due to their serious health risks. They are fat-soluble and hard to degrade, and consequently, they are still very present in our environment.

There are 209 different PCBs which are mainly airborne but also found in water

These persistent compounds collect in sediments at the bottoms of streams, rivers, lakes and coastal areas and accumulate in the fatty tissues and organs of fish and other animals.

Once again, if you consume a lot of fish, you could have high levels of PCBs, which over time can severely impact your health. Therefore, it’s essential to limit your consumption of certain fish that have higher levels. 

Chlorinated PCBs found in water, eaten by fish and then by us, are hard for the liver to metabolise and rid from the body. So it accumulates, even at low levels of exposure.

PCBs can easily enter our cells and disrupt DNA and interfere with our endocrine systems, thyroid function and affect hormone balance.

They may also cause oxidative stress and reduce antioxidant capacity. Harmful to us at any age, repeated exposure to low levels of PCBs can put fetuses, babies and children at risk of neurological and developmental problems.

Bottom-dwelling fish are most likely to have higher PCB levels as it settles in the sediments in the sea, river and lake beds.

Levels of contamination will vary on the location of the fish and the species local to that region. Farmed salmon fed ground-up fish tend to be higher in PCBs than wild salmon.

Dioxins 

The World Health Organisation classes dioxins as POPs (persistent environmental pollutants).

Dioxins can be naturally produced via volcanic eruptions and forest fires but are mainly a consequence of industrial processes like uncontrolled waste incinerators for solid and hospital waste, for example.

They belong to the ‘dirty dozen’, a group of highly toxic chemicals, found worldwide, accumulating in the fatty tissue of animals. The higher an animal is in the food chain, the greater its accumulation of dioxins.

Human exposure mainly comes from consuming fish, shellfish, meat and dairy.  

Once ingested, dioxins get stored in our fat cells with an estimated half-life of seven to eleven years.

Toxic levels can impair liver function, immunity, fertility and endocrine function. Fetuses and newborns are particularly vulnerable as dioxins can affect developing organs and systems.

According to Cancer Research U.K., the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified one dioxin, TCDD, as carcinogenic to humans. 

Related: 13 Tips of Reducing the Health Effects of Air Pollution

DDT

Pesticides, in general, continue to be of great concern for aquatic life. Scarily, DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), an extremely toxic organochloride pesticide which is now banned for decades in most countries, is still damaging ecosystems.

Unexpectedly high levels of DDT and its degradation products were found in wild freshwater fish in 13 southern river sites in the U.K. between 2007 and 2012.

Levels in fish swimming in the river Lea were almost 20 times higher than the average from the other sites.

According to researchers, the Lea fish “averaged 88 ± 70 (standard deviation) ?g/kg ww,” and “All fish from that site exceeded the Canadian Tissue Residue Guideline (environmental quality standard) of 14 ?g/kg ?DDTs.” 

A Canadian study released in 2019 found that the levels of DDT and its toxic breakdown by-products were still incredibly high in the modern sediments of remote Canadian lakes in areas where intensive DDT spraying was carried out between 1952 and 1968.

Sadly, a valuable invertebrate, the small water flea Daphnia sp., has substantially declined, which appears to coincide with increased DDT.

This has had a significant impact on the food chain, potentially leading to higher algae production and less prey for fish. It would also be safe to assume that fish swimming in these waters are likely to have detectable DDT. 

Animals and fish consume DDT from grass, algae and other plants growing in contaminated sediments and soil. Fish may also take it up through polluted sediment and water.

These days, the most common form of exposure to DDT in humans is via fish, dairy and meat. Although you can also get it from plant foods grown in contaminated areas and according to the CDC, leafy greens tend to have higher levels of DDT than other vegetables.

DDT is mostly stored in the fatty tissues of fish, animals and humans, and it leaves the body very slowly. It’s eliminated mainly via urine but can also be passed on to infants through breast milk.

High DDT can significantly affect the nervous system. Smaller exposure over a longer period may impact liver function and negatively affect blood quality.

DDT can alter lactation in breastfeeding women, and increase the risk of premature birth. There may also be a link between DDT exposure and the development of Alzheimer’s disease

Beware of farmed fish

Depending on farming methods, farmed fish are often exposed to overcrowding, poor feeding practices, disease and pollution. Unfortunately, infection and contamination also have an impact on wild fish who share nearby waters. 

Farmed fish are routinely fed antibiotics, pesticides and other compounds and are regularly given synthetic pigments to disguise the colour of their less appealing grey flesh.

Some countries like Norway are a little savvier and don’t allow fish farms near natural waterways where they can pollute, infect and endanger wild river, lake and sea-life, but this is not the case for many other countries

Studies show dioxins, PCBs, mercury and other toxins are higher in farmed fish. This is in part as they are fed ground-up fish and other seafood such as krill (which has question marks over its population status and fishing practices and takes up a large percentage of feed). They are often also fed G.M. soy and other unnatural foods. 

Conclusion

As you can see, you need to be vigilant about the quality of your fish oil supplements! It’s often worth paying more to get the purity, potency and transparency that is necessary to guarantee safety and peace of mind.

We firmly stand behind our range of WHC fish oils which guarantee quality, purity, transparency, sustainability, and high potency from smaller breed wild fish sources like sardines and anchovy.

They are all independently tested by the U.S. laboratory Labdoor, who have ranked the WHC Unocardio 1000 number 1 for quality since 2015.

The WHC fish oil range covers cardiovascular health, brain function and vision, supplements for children and female health. Why not give them a try?

Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Omega-3 Fish Oils Could Help to Boost Your Child’s Brainpower

Omega-3 Fish Oils Could Help to Boost Your Child's Brainpower

Essential omega-3 fatty acids are called 'essential' because we can't make them ourselves and have to get them from food. These fats don't just come from fish. You can also find them in nuts, seeds, plant oils such as olive oil, some vegetables such as leafy greens, and grass-fed animal products.

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two omega-3 fats that are specifically linked to brain health. DHA, in particular, is critical for healthy foetal development of the nervous system and eyes. It may also improve the hand-eye coordination of toddlers and potentially raise I.Q.s in children.

The problem is that the omega-3 fatty acid provided by plant foods and grass-fed animal fats comes in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). This has many health benefits, including energy production, but it has to convert to EPA and DHA in our bodies – and the conversion rate is relatively low.

Marine omega-3 fats are the most available source of EPA and DHA which our bodies don't have to convert. So, to ensure you and your children are getting enough EPA and DHA in your diets, you need to consume oily fish or fish oil supplements.

Some interesting research results

There are conflicting opinions when it comes to how effective fish oils are for your child’s brain health and function.

More research is clearly needed, but there have been some compelling results worth mentioning, and a few of them are listed below.

As always, we encourage you to delve deeper and do some personal exploration to form your own opinion. 

Fish oil consumption during pregnancy

1) One small 2006 study included 98 pregnant women who were supplemented with either 4g of fish oils or 4g olive oil daily from 20 weeks until birth.

Eighty-three mothers completed the trial and only non-smokers and those who ate less than two portions of oily fish per week were included. Once their children reached two and a half years of age, their growth and development were measured using validated tests.

Of the 72 assessed children, those whose mothers had taken fish oils scored higher for comprehension, average phrase length and vocabulary. They also had significantly higher scores for hand-eye coordination.

These results appeared to have no relation to other influencing factors such as the mother’s age or duration of breastfeeding. The researchers also stated that their findings showed relatively high doses of fish oils in the second half of pregnancy do not seem to have any adverse effects on neurodevelopment or growth.

2) A review of eight research articles concluded that consuming oily fish once or more per week during pregnancy increased positive foetal neurodevelopmental outcomes (related to growth, brain development or central nervous system development of their babies). 

3) In 2004, research suggested that babies born to mothers with increased blood levels of DHA at birth had advanced attention spans well into their second year. During their first six months, these infants were also two months ahead of those born to mothers with lower DHA levels.

Fish oil consumption in infancy and childhood

1) Although they mentioned study disparity, researchers analysing the results of several trials concluded that omega-3 fats, particularly DHA, may improve brain function and mood in children.

They may enhance cognitive development, learning, memory and speed of performing cognitive tasks. It also appears that children with low literacy ability and those who rarely consume DHA benefit most from having increased omega-3s in their diet.

2) Another review of 15 trials looked at the relationship between DHA and learning and behaviour in healthy children.

The reviewers concluded that while the studies were diverse, and there were inconsistencies, overall, there appeared to be a benefit between DHA supplementation and brain activity, cognition and behaviour.

Studies also suggested a significant role for DHA in school performance. In their opinion, healthy children’s brains might benefit from increased DHA intake.

Studies imply that inadequate levels of DHA could be detrimental to learning and behaviour in otherwise healthy children. 

3) A twelve-month micronutrient study involving nearly 800 six to ten-year-old schoolchildren, split between Australia and Indonesia, showed positive results between increased blood DHA and omega-3 fatty acids and verbal learning and memory.

There were similarly positive results in a 2009 trial with seven to nine-year-old children. After eating a daily fish-flour spread versus placebo for six months, they had significantly higher EPA and DHA levels. The children also showed considerably improved verbal learning ability and memory.   

4) In 2012, a study was published which set out to assess whether supplementing with EPA and DHA compared to safflower oil could improve literacy and behaviour in children with ADHD.

After four months of taking the supplements, researchers noted that in the seven to twelve-year-old children taking fish oils, an increased proportion of DHA was associated with improved word reading and lower parent ratings of oppositional behaviour.

This was particularly evident in a subgroup of 17 children with learning difficulties. They also had improved spelling, were more able to divide attention, and had lower parent ratings for hyperactivity, restlessness and overall ADHD symptoms.  

5) Poor sleep negatively affects cognitive function, focus, concentration and learning. It can considerably affect school performance and behaviour in children.

In 2014, researchers examined the link between essential omega-3 fatty acids and sleep regulation in seven to nine-year-olds from mainstream UK schools. Over 16 weeks, they split the children into groups taking an algal DHA supplement versus placebo to see if it might improve the sleep of children who were underperforming in reading.

There were noted associations between lower blood DHA levels and increased sleep disturbance. Parents of those in the DHA group observed improvement in sleep.

In a small subset of 43 children, their sleep was objectively assessed via actigraphy (a way of measuring sleep/wake cycles). In this group, DHA supplementation led to less disturbed sleep and an average of an extra 58 minutes of sleep per night.

Other health benefits of fish oils for your child

If you’re not convinced that fish oils can aid your child’s brainpower, there are still so many benefits to adding them to their diet.

Fish oils play a valuable part in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. They may help with childhood allergies, including asthma and could benefit autism and ADHD.

Some research found that increased EPA (found in fish oils), as well as increased total omega-3 intake, may help to reduce anxiety and shyness in children.

They may also help to improve mood and depression and enhance sleep. EPA and DHA also support eye, skin and heart health and may help to reduce inflammation.

Should you feed children fish or give them a fish oil supplement?

Feeding children oily fish twice a week should provide them with all the EPA and DHA they require. Of course, this isn’t always achievable for various reasons. For example, your child may dislike it, or you may be concerned about mercury levels and other contaminants in fish. 

The NHS state that children under the age of 16 should avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin. This is because the high levels of mercury they contain can affect a child’s nervous system.

You can start introducing fish to babies from six months. Boys aged five or more can eat up to four portions of oily fish per week. Girls shouldn’t eat more than two as this may cause harm to an unborn baby in a future pregnancy.

With this in mind, many people find supplementing with fish oils is a more convenient and safe way to provide the EPA and DHA their young ones need.

Should you decide this is preferable, look for a good-quality, certified product that is free from contaminants and only uses sustainably sourced, non-endangered species.

Related: What to Consider When Choosing a Fish Oil

We recommend QuattrO3 + P.S. Fish Oils for Children

Manufactured by WHC, QuattrO3 + P.S. is a unique complex of high-quality omega-3 fish oils and other nutrients, specially formulated to optimise children’s health and growth. It is designed to help them realise their full potential at school.

The addition of vitamin D3 helps promote healthy growth and bone development and aids the immune system. 

The capsules are recommended for 3 to 14-year-olds and provide over 90% fish oil per serving (300mg EPA and 204mg DHA) as well as 400IU of vitamin D3. They are tutti-frutti flavoured soft gels, which disguise the fishy flavour and smell.

You can also feel safe in the knowledge that your child is getting a risk-free dose of these important nutrients. If your child has trouble swallowing capsules, cut them open and squeeze the contents onto cold foods such as yoghurts, pasta, rice or vegetables.

WHC has won serious praise for its range of unequalled omega-3 products. Indeed, two of them are ranked #1 and #3 by the independent U.S. laboratory Labdoor.

The bottom line

It’s interesting to note that the intake of marine foods in the mid-Upper Paleolithic period marked a significant turning point in human evolution.

While studies are contradictory, there are enough persuasively positive results to support the view that fish oils can improve children’s brain health. They may help with literacy, learning, memory, behaviour and school performance, particularly for those who are deficient in DHA. 

The DHA provided by adequate oily fish consumption during pregnancy is vital for foetal neurodevelopment. It may also improve hand-eye coordination of toddlers and increase the attention spans of babies well into their second year.

All this aside, ensuring your child gets adequate amounts of omega-3 fish oils in their diet has so many other health benefits.

It’s common for children to eat insufficient amounts of fish. Perhaps getting your child to eat enough oily fish is tricky, or you’re concerned about the mercury in fish. If so, supplementing with a high-quality fish oil is a convenient and safe way to provide them with all the EPA and DHA they need. 

Written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

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Fish Oil Helps Your Heart: Details of the 2019 Harvard Study

Fish Oil Helps Your Heart: Details of the 2019 Havard Study

At Water for Health, we have long touted the merits of fish oil. Although frequently discredited by mainstream voices, the evidence indicating a therapeutic benefit of omega-3 supplements – and a significant one – is compelling and dates back decades.

We have written at length on omega-3, investigating its potential to alleviate childhood allergies, reduce autism and ADHD symptoms and improve behaviour and school performance in youngsters. However, it’s fair to say that fish oil pills continue to be synonymous with heart health.

In this article, we will take a closer look at a recent study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the public health graduate school of Harvard University. Hardly a fringe institution – which makes the study all the more interesting.

Fish Oil for the Heart: What the Study Says


The study in question was published on September 30, 2019, in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

A meta-analysis, it encompassed a population of over 120,000 adults in 13 randomised trials worldwide – making it one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind published to date.

What the Harvard researchers found was that people who took omega-3 fish oil supplements in the clinical studies had “lower risks of heart attack and other cardiovascular disease events compared with those who were given a placebo.”

That’s right, it wasn’t just outright heart attack risk which fish oil helped with: it was an assortment of cardiovascular outcomes including death from CVD, death from coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction.

What’s more, there was a correlation between higher doses of fish oil and risk reduction.

To be clear, this is not the first time that an association between omega-3 consumption and heart disease risk has been explored. Both observational and clinical studies have shown that fish oils can reduce triglycerides and blood pressure, block clot-forming platelet activation, protect those at risk of arrhythmia and improve general vascular function.

However, the size of the Harvard study blows the others out of the water. A meta-analysis of this magnitude is as close to a gold standard as you’re likely to get.

As far as numbers are concerned, the new findings showed that individuals who supplemented with omega-3 fish oil enjoyed an 8% reduced risk of heart attack and death from coronary heart disease.

As noted in the paper, “this finding may suggest that marine omega-3 supplementation dosage above the 840 mg/day used in most randomized clinical trials may provide greater reductions in CVD risk.”

Given the results of the study, the the American Heart Association is unlikely to alter its guidance to patients with prevalent coronary heart disease – namely, to supplement with marine omega?3 capsules on a daily basis.

That said, Federal regulations prevent dietary supplements from being prescribed by doctors as a treatment for a disease. In the UK, too, the process is very much geared towards the pharmaceutical industry.

So don’t expect the hatchet jobs that are periodically carried out on fish oil to end any time soon!

The Importance of a Therapeutic Dosage

What is clear from the paper, and from previous research, is that to obtain statistically significant benefits on certain heart outcomes, an effective dose is required. If 840mg is the typical dosage used in studies, you may require 1g, 2g or even 4g per day depending on the extent of your needs.

One of the most widely-quoted studies to date on this topic was REDUCE-IT, which used a high-dose, pure EPA fish oil named Vascepa. Incidentally, REDUCE-IT was incorporated in the Harvard meta-analysis – although results held true even when it was discounted.

What the REDUCE-IT trial showed was that pure EPA fish oil, when supplemented at 4g per day for five years, reduced coronary event risk by 25% among participants with elevated levels of triglycerides at the outset and either cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes, plus at least one other cardiovascular risk factor.

What’s interesting is that Vascepa is actually classed as a pharmaceutical, not a dietary supplement. However, it is possible to obtain Vascepa’s “therapeutic” dosage by taking regular, off-the-shelf supplements.

Other Factors to Ponder When Choosing a Fish Oil


Of course, dosage is only one factor that should be considered. In truth, the same process must be followed when selecting any supplement.

When shopping for a protein powder, for instance, your primary consideration might be how much protein is supplied per serving. However, you’ll  also want to know how many calories; how many grams of carbohydrates; how much sugar; whether the protein is whey or plant-based; which amino acids are included, and so on.

Aside from providing an effective omega-3 dosage, you should ensure that the fish oil comes from sustainable sources and small-species fish (which absorb less toxins); you should also opt for a fish oil in the more bioavailable r-Triglyceride form, which is preferable to the commonly available (synthetic) ethyl ester form.

It should go without saying that the fish oil should also be made by a reputable manufacturer who follows sound manufacturing practices (GMPs) and has won approval from the IFOSP (International Fish Oil Standards Program) as well as other independent aggregators such as Labdoor.

Should You Combine Fish Oil and Vitamin D?

global overview of worldwide causes of death proves that cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer, followed by cancer. These causes are way in front of the others: deaths from cardiovascular death are roughly double those from cancer, and deaths from cancer are more than double those from the third biggest killer: respiratory disease.

It may seem morbid to draw attention to these statistics, but what they expose is a grave public health crisis. The simple fact is that we are not looking after our hearts as we should, and we remain vulnerable to cancer in its many forms.

The evidence indicates that, where heart health is concerned, we should up our omega-3 intake. We should also strive to incorporate regular exercise into our routine, limit our consumption of trans fats, shun tobacco, manage stress levels and achieve a healthy weight.

It is also possible to manage cancer risk. According to Cancer Research UK, “our risk depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and things to do with our lifestyle, which we’re more able to control.”

Controllable factors listed by the charity include not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a balanced diet, staying active, cutting back on alcohol and enjoying the sun safely. As such, they are broadly similar to the guidance for heart health.As far as cancer is concerned, there is some research to suggest that vitamin D supplements could offer a protective effect.

In one study of nearly 26,000 participants aged 50 and older, published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the turn of this year, those who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily had a 25% reduced risk of death from cancer during the five-year study period.

Moreover, a Japanese study from 2018 showed that overall cancer risk was 22% lower among people with the highest vitamin D levels, versus those with the lowest levels. People with the highest vitamin D levels were also 55% less likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer than those with the lowest.

And there’s another reason why you might want to take fish oil and vitamin D together: the latter is best absorbed when taken with a meal containing fats or oils.

Conclusion

It is encouraging to note that more people are taking an interest in what may be broadly termed preventive nutrition – the understanding that diet can significantly reduce the risk, and impact, of disease and disease-related complications.

Omega-3 fish oil continues to prove itself as one of the key nutrients for heart health, and when you consider its uses beyond improving cardiac health, it’s easy to view it as one of the indispensable elements of our diet.

If you wish to combine omega-3 and vitamin D, there is no better supplement than UnoCardio 1000 – ranked by Labdoor as the world’s best quality fish oil since 2015. WHC’s formula combines 1.2g of exceptionally pure omega-3 fish oil per serving, plus 1,000 IU of vitamin D, and each pack provides 60 servings.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Proven Scientific Benefits of Combining Omega-3 & Vitamin B

Proven Scientific Benefits of Combining Omega-3 & Vitamin B

According to several research studies, it may be better to take a combination of vitamins instead of brain-healthy B vitamins or omega-3 on their own.

B vitamins are reported to slow cognitive decline in some people, especially folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

However, clinical trials have had mixed results, which has confused outcomes in the past. The reason for the mixed results may be due to a variation in omega-3 levels.

In this blog, we will summarise the main advantages of combining omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B. As the evidence stands, doing so will potentiate the impact of both.

Omega-3 Boosts the Effects of Vitamin B


An international study from the Universities of Cape Town, Oslo, Oxford and the UAE discovered that higher levels of omega-3 may boost the effects of vitamin B.

Vitamin B has already been shown to slow cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

A link between omega-3 levels, homocysteine and brain atrophy rates has already been established. The latest Oxford study was focused on the effects of B vitamins and omega-3 in the prevention of cognitive decline.

The omega-3 levels of the participants were measured at the start of the two-year study, wherein participants were split into two groups: one was given vitamin B and the other a placebo. The researcher, Dr Abderrahim Oulhaj, reported:

We found that for people with low levels of omega-3, the vitamin supplements had little to no effect. But for those with high baseline omega-3 levels, the B vitamins were very effective in preventing cognitive decline compared to the placebo.”

In other words, the reason people may not respond as well to vitamin B treatment may be due to low omega-3 levels in their blood.

Nutrition plays a part in brain health, cognitive decline and the development of dementia. Researchers at The Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA) are on a mission to understand the causes, treatment and prevention of dementia.

Is Vitamin B Good for your Brain?

B vitamins when combined with omega-3 supplements (like fish oil) may help improve thinking and memory. B vitamins play a role in preserving brain health and can be obtained from a balanced healthy diet.

 Studies show that a significant percentage of the developed world is deficient in at least one of the B vitamins.

Folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 are the most studied B vitamins. We know a lot more about these three (compared to the other 5), as they have been the focus of research.

That being said, all 8 B vitamins are essential for brain health and indeed overall health. We cover this topic in greater depth in our article What is Vitamin B: A Comprehensive Guide.

Vitamin B Deficiency in Pregnancy


B vitamins are co-enzymes, meaning they help enzymes do their job. A deficiency in folate (folic acid) or B9 during pregnancy can lead to birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

Like other B vitamins, B9 is water soluble and comes in two forms – folate and folic acid. Folate is the natural form that derives from food and folic acid is the supplement form of B9.

Surprisingly, folic acid is 85% bioavailable and folate is less easily absorbed in the body (50% bioavailable).

B9 is involved in breaking down homocystine, creating blood cells and the formation of DNA and RNA. During periods of rapid growth, for example pregnancy and childhood, B9 is critical for the formation of a healthy body.

How Does Vitamin B Deficiency Affect Brain and Body?


There are many illnesses associated with vitamin B6, B12 and folate deficiencies such as osteoporosis, bone thinning, atherosclerosis, blood clots, heart attack, coronary artery disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin B regulates the amount of homocysteine in the blood; high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is created as a by-product of the breakdown of proteins, are toxic to the body and can cause disease.

Rampant levels of homocysteine are a known byproduct of excess meat intake.

The findings of 19 research studies that measured homocysteine levels in relation to the consumption of omega-3 and vitamin B were unanimous: the combination of Omega-3 with B vitamins was more effective than omega-3 or B vitamins alone at lowering homocysteine levels.

Is a B Complex Good for the Brain?


Vitamin B is important for energy metabolism and is essential for health and wellbeing.

As mentioned, there are eight B vitamins and together they form “B complex vitamins”. In particular, B12 (cobalamin) is good for brain health as it protects sensitive nerve endings. This protective sheath ensures that nerves are not overly impacted by oxidative stress and free radicals.

What are the 8 B Vitamins Called?


The eight B vitamins are as follows:

  • Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (B5)
  • Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Biotin (B7)
  • Folate (B9)
  • Cobalamin (B12)

Do B Vitamins Help with Depression?

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) plays a major role in the synthesis of dopamine, serotonin, ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA), noradrenaline and the hormone melatonin.

A deficiency in this particular B vitamin can result in disordered sleep, behavioural changes and HPA-axis changes that all affect how we experience life.

Folate (Vitamin B9) and vitamin B12 (Cobolamin) are also essential for healthy brain function. A deficiency in any of the B vitamins can result in neurophsychiatric symptoms.

A third of psychiatric admissions have a folate or B12 deficiency. Folic acid and B12 may play a role in the prevention of mood disorders.

In Conclusion

Our understanding of the complex relationship between nutrition and health is improving due to the work of various research studies, some of which are cited in this article.

Omega-3 levels have repeatedly been found to impact our ability to absorb B vitamins, and B vitamins are essential for both mental and physical health. Ensuring optimal omega-3 intake from our diet may boost our ability to absorb B vitamins.

If you’re after a supplement, we recommend pairing Revitacell B-Complex, a vitamin B formula which supplies all 8 essential B vitamins – with a high-quality fish oil. UnoCardio 1000 is ranked #1 by independent aggregator Labdoor, so it’s a terrific option. In addition to 1.2g of highly pure omega-3, it contains vitamin D3.

Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.

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6 Foods High in Omega-3, and Why You Should Eat More

6 Foods High in Omega-3, and Why You Should Eat More

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that we need to get from food, as we can’t make them ourselves. They are crucial components of our cell membranes, affecting the function of cell receptors, and are precursors to important signalling molecules, controlling many essential functions throughout the body.

Among other things, omega-3 fats help to regulate inflammation and blood clotting, and aid brain and heart health, hormone balance, digestion and joint function. (To find out more about the many health benefits of omega-3s, click here.)

In this article, we'll focus on six great food sources of omega-3 fats. If you don't tend to eat any of them, the time to start is now.

What are Essential Fatty Acids?


There are three significant forms of omega-3, classed as Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). They are Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), and Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA).

The most easily absorbed and direct food source of EPA and DHA is from oily fish, whereas ALA is found in nuts, seeds, oils, green leafy vegetables and some meat. It is possible to convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but the rate is relatively low.

With this in mind, unless you are vegetarian, vegan or don’t eat fish, you need to eat three portions of oily fish a week to obtain adequate amounts.

Omega-3 vs Omega-6


In the typical Western diet, omega-3 consumption is low, and we tend to eat far more omega-6 fats.

Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, and while we need this as part of a healthy immune response to fight infection and recover from injury, a diet high in omega-6 can lead to excessive, chronic inflammation and disease

The current ratio of omega-6 to 3 is roughly 16:1, compared to the 1:1 ratio anthropological evidence suggests we evolved on. So, it’s essential to readdress this imbalance by improving your omega-6 to 3 ratio.

You can do this by cleaning up your diet – avoiding processed foods and anything with a lengthy ingredient list containing names you don’t understand! Cook from scratch as much as possible, dodging sugary and fried foods. Don’t use processed seed and vegetable oils; choose cold-pressed virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and organic grass-fed ghee instead. 

Eat a whole food diet rich in brightly-coloured vegetables and fruit, while sticking to healthy protein sources such as nuts, seeds, beans and pulses. Where animal protein and produce is concerned, ensure it has not been fed an industrialised diet high in omega-6, and choose grass-fed, free-range or organic animal products instead, including dairy and eggs. 

Upping your intake of omega-3 foods is also crucial, so make healthy fats an integral part of your daily fare, adding it to every meal.

To give you some inspiration, we have listed six high omega-3 foods that you can easily consume every day.

1) Oily fish


Oily fish is the most abundant and easily absorbed food source of EPA and DHA. It’s also a terrific source of protein.

Several studies link the consumption of fatty fish to a decreased risk of heart disease, as well as improved cognitive function and depression.

Wild Atlantic mackerel provides the highest amount of omega-3 at 2,789mg per 100g, with herring and salmon not far behind.

Oily fish provides several other beneficial nutrients too. For example, mackerel contains a generous helping of vitamin B12, good for brain health, and aiding the symptoms of depression, along with plentiful amounts of the powerful antioxidant selenium.

Salmon also contains a host of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12, selenium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. You need to eat three portions of oily fish a week to get adequate amounts of EPA and DHA.

Other fabulous oily fish you could try include sardines and anchovies. Alternatively, you could take a daily fish oil supplement to ensure you get what you need.

2) Linseeds or flax seeds


There’s a whopping 6,479mg of omega-3s in 28g of linseeds (roughly two tablespoons). These are perfect ground up and sprinkled over salads, stir-fries and vegetables. You can also add them to smoothies.

These little powerhouses are packed full of minerals including potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, copper, selenium and zinc. They also provide several B vitamins and are especially high in vitamin B1.

They are also abundant in lignans, containing between 75 to 800 times more than any other cereal grains, legumes, fruits or vegetables. Lignans aid oestrogen metabolism and early research associates them with a reduced risk of breast and prostate cancer. Fibre-rich, linseeds are great for digestion too.

3) Chia seeds


28g of antioxidant-rich chia seeds contain roughly 5,064mg omega-3 fats while also providing a decent hit of magnesium, calcium, iron, selenium and zinc. They’re also rich in fibre, and two tablespoons contain around 5g healthy protein.

Chia seeds can be soaked overnight and added to smoothies, or ground and sprinkled into salads and stir-fries. You can soak them in water or juice to drink, or make chia pudding.

High in fibre, chia seeds can support digestion and aid weight loss, blood pressure and lessen the risk for cardiovascular disease. Some studies also suggest chia seeds can improve insulin sensitivity and balance blood sugar, aiding type 2 diabetes.

Their mineral profile, meanwhile, means they are good for supporting bone health. Chia seeds can even be mixed with water and used as an egg alternative in vegan cooking.

4) Walnuts


28g walnuts provide 2,579mg omega-3 fats, making them higher than any other nuts. They are rich in antioxidants and rich in manganese, which is needed for healthy connective tissue, joints and bones; it also reduces inflammation and may help with blood sugar regulation.

A small handful of walnuts can be eaten as a healthy snack between meals to balance blood sugar and control your appetite. They are also linked with reduced cholesterol, and blood pressure and one recent study suggested that consuming two ounces of walnuts per day can suppress the growth and survival of breast cancers.

Don’t forget to regularly eat other nuts too which also provide omega-3 fats, particularly pine nuts, pecans and pistachios.  

5) Oysters


OK, so maybe these aren’t an everyday kind of food, but depending on whether they are fresh or tinned, oysters contain around 1591mg omega-3 per 100g. They’re also extremely high in zinc, a potent antioxidant which is essential for regulating immunity and supporting brain function.

Zinc also improves your response to stress and has antidepressant qualities.

Other nutrients include a hefty hit of selenium, copper and vitamin B12. Other shellfish such as mussels, crab and clams can also provide you with a decent dose of omega-3s.

6) Vegetables

Although amounts vary, and they don’t provide the supremely high amounts of omega-3 fats listed above, many vegetables do provide sufficient levels of the plant source omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (same for walnuts, chia and linseeds), which are certainly not to be sniffed at.

And that’s not to mention the countless number of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre, with the attendant health benefits they provide.

For example, did you know that one cup of cooked red or green bell peppers contains between 822mg and 886mg of omega-3 fats? Beansprouts are also on the high end of the omega-3 spectrum when it comes to vegetables.

Other plant foods of note are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, squash, broccoli, dark leafy greens, and onions. Some beans such as navy and butter beans also contain small amounts.

Conclusion

The EPA and DHA found in fish oil have the most research behind them in terms of the myriad of health benefits they provide. ALA also has anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular and neuroprotective qualities.

The Western diet is high in omega-6 fats. The average ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 16:1, far outweighing our ancestral ratio of 1:1, and this is associated with higher rates of inflammation and chronic disease.

For overall health and wellbeing, it’s vital to readdress this imbalance by increasing omega-3 foods and eating a natural, whole food diet, avoiding refined, sugar-laden and fried foods, and processed vegetable oils.

Eating oily fish three times a week or taking a daily, high-quality  fish oil  supplement should provide a healthy person with adequate levels of EPA and DHA. If you are vegetarian or vegan, then an algae supplement is the next best thing. 

This article is written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

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Fish Oil for Childhood Allergies: Everything You Need to Know

Fish Oil for Childhood Allergies: Everything You Need to Know

Fish oils come from oily fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies and salmon. They are a rich source of omega-3 fats, especially DHA and EPA which are much harder to obtain from other omega-3 foods like walnuts, chia and flax seeds.

These Essential Fatty Acids can support heart health, maintain vision, protect brain function, improve mental health, promote healthy skin, aid liver function and reduce inflammation; they may also improve ADHD and autism in children, and help babies' brains and eyes develop during pregnancy.

Research is now also pointing to a link between consuming fish oils and reducing allergies in children. Below are three ways in which they may be able to help.

Supplement Early to Stop Dust Mite Allergies


Being allergic to house dust mites is relatively common, and children living in areas with a higher volume of traffic are more susceptible.

People with asthma and those with other allergies can also become sensitive to dust.

Dust mites are present in every household throughout the world. They are microscopic arthropods that feed on human skin flakes which have embedded themselves into furniture, bedding, carpets and toys where dust mites flourish and feast on the skin.

The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, and Imperial College London, examined data from a longitudinal study looking into asthma in children. The research looked at a number of eight-year-old children who lived in areas of high traffic pollution, half of which were given regular fish oil supplements for the first five years of their lives.

Researchers noted a significantly higher number of children with dust mite allergies in those who were not given the supplements and concluded that fish oil supplements could protect against the effects of pollution and dust mite allergies in children.

This was only a preliminary investigation, and more extensive studies are needed to gain more conclusive evidence; but the results are certainly promising.

Fish Oils May Protect Against Food Allergies


An observational study published in 2018 followed 1,304 Nordic children from birth to 2.5 years of age. The parents were periodically asked to fill out detailed questionnaires including fish oil supplementation.

Children with and without proven food allergies participated in the trial. Progression of established allergies and the formation of new ones were monitored.

Overall food sensitivity was notably lower in the children taking fish oils, and although it was less significant, a higher reduction in food allergy symptoms was also seen in the supplemented children.

Two other points raised from this study were that the children who began taking fish oil in the first six months of their life were more protected than those who started later. Also, the higher the potency of fish oils, the greater the reduction in allergy symptoms.

Again, more research is needed to determine how effective fish oil supplementation would be in more extensive studies, but this is very encouraging.

Fish Oils During Pregnancy for Childhood Asthma

The EPA and DHA found in fish oils have been associated with anti-inflammatory effects in disease, asthma and allergies.

A large number of studies in people from many different cultures, ages and backgrounds have researched the benefits of fish oils on asthmatic and allergic symptoms. Overall, there have been positive results supporting supplementation for asthma, linking decreased intake of fish oils to increased symptoms.

In a double blind, randomised controlled trial, 736 pregnant women at 24 to 26 weeks gestation were divided into a placebo group who took olive oil and another who took fish oil. EPA and DHA blood levels were tested at the start of the trial and one week after birth.

The purpose of the study was to determine the fish oil effects on asthma and wheezing in their children.

To monitor their progress, the children had regular paediatric visits in the first 36 months of their lives and then at four and five years of age.

At three to five years, the children of mothers who had received fish oils had a lower risk of asthma and wheezing which equated to a relative reduction of 30.7% compared to those in the placebo group.

A decrease in lower respiratory tract infections was also linked to fish oil supplementation.

Interestingly, the most substantial benefits were observed in the children whose mothers had the lowest levels of EPA and DHA at the start of the trial. The same was also true for children whose mothers had consumed less fish oils before the study began.

Conclusion

While more research is justified, these results are all very hopeful and if you are pregnant, or have young children either with allergies or without, supplementing with fish oils or eating adequate amounts of oily fish could reap great rewards long term.

Starting children as early as possible appears to be the most beneficial.

Concerning the trial for asthma and wheezing in children, it is important to note that the offspring of mothers who had low levels of EPA and DHA to start with were the ones who had the most favourable results.

It is also worth pointing out that this trial was conducted in Denmark, where oily fish consumption is much more common in the diet than other countries like the UK, for example.

Many of us are low in omega-3, particularly if we eat a typical western diet or don’t consume much oily fish. So arguably, supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy may have more profound effects here and in other countries where consuming oily fish is less common.

Have a look at our WHC Fish Oil range which is exceptionally high in quality and purity. There is even a specially formulated fish oil for children, QuattrO3 + PS.

This article is written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

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Nutrition for the Brain: What to Eat for Brain Function, Mood

Nutrition for the Brain: What to Eat for Brain Function, Mood

Early last year we wrote a long blog article entitled Nutrition for the Heart, covering the best foods to eat for healthy cardiac function. Having updated the article recently, it made sense to us to craft something of a companion piece focusing on nutrition for that other vital organ: the brain!

Just as decades of research and insights have led to a broad understanding of the best diets for heart health, there is a great deal we know about nutrition for the brain.

In this article, we intend to summarise some of that research while making dietary recommendations for those who are concerned about preserving mental function well into their senior years.

Which Nutrients Contribute to Brain Function?

Before we look at which foods are beneficial for brain health, we’d like to hone in on specific nutrients which have been shown to nurture the brain in some sense.

Although it is not, in our opinion, a definitive guide, the EU Register on Nutrition and Health Claims is, at any rate, a useful (if incomplete) archive of nutrients and their relationship to health. As far as brain function is concerned, several nutrients are covered in the document.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

There are a few claims for DHA in the EU Register. Firstly, “DHA contributes to maintenance of normal brain function.” Secondly, “DHA maternal intake contributes to the normal brain development of the foetus and breastfed infants.”

DHA is, of course, a type of omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in oily, fatty fish but also in flax, pumpkin and chia seeds, walnuts and soya beans.

The human brain is composed of 60% fat, with half being of the omega-3 variety. It is therefore no surprise that DHA is deemed vital for our brains, which utilise such nutrients to forge cells and aid our capacity to memorise and learn.

The neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter has noted that “DHA not only turns on the growth of new brain cells, but offers protection for existing brain cells while it enhances the ability one brain cell to connect to the next, a process called neuroplasticity.”

Dr. Perlmutter “generally recommends at least 800mg of DHA for adults and oftentimes even more.”

According to a 2018 study, children with higher whole blood levels of both DHA and total omega-3 were more likely to pass a Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCSS) test, the kind used to determine “executive function”.

Executive function defines the ability to plan and organise, recall facts, multi-task, pay attention and switch focus. What’s more, there is some evidence that DHA helps to improve reading ability and reduce behavioural problems in children.

For more on the specific brain health benefits of DHA, and omega-3s more generally for young people, take a look at our article on the topic.

It is interesting to note that DHA is the only individual nutrient which carries the “contributes to maintenance of normal brain function” claim, although the macronutrient carbohydrate also carries the claim. This may ring alarm bells for those who pursue low-carb and ketogenic diets: later in the article we’ll look at how such diets affect brain health in general.

The EU Register is rather densely worded, and although the usage of the brain function claim is limited, the following nutrients are said to “contribute to normal cognitive function.”

Iodine

The role of iodine in brain health is perhaps best highlighted by alluding to an unfortunate fact: iodine deficiency is the most prevalent and preventable cause of mental impairment in the world.

Iodine mediates the effects of thyroid hormones on brain development and influences multiple structures and systems including neurotransmitters and the hippocampus.

In particular, iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormones T4 and T3. Interestingly, studies highlight a link between low T3 and low serotonin.

A trace element, iodine is especially vital for pregnant mothers due to its role in the foetal development process.

As with DHA, iodine isn’t naturally produced by the body: it must be obtained from the diet. Food sources include cow’s milk, seafood, sea vegetables and iodised table salt.

There is some evidence to show that iodine supplements can improve brain power in children suffering from even modest deficiencies.

Iron

As noted in a 2014 review paper, “iron is involved in many fundamental biological processes in the brain including oxygen transportation, DNA synthesis, mitochondrial respiration, myelin synthesis, and neurotransmitter synthesis and metabolism.”

As with iodine, iron deficiency is a well-established cause of impaired cognitive, language and motor development. What’s more, variations in iron levels appear to correspond with differences in brain structure integrity.

This is partly due to the fact that myelin, the insulating layer that sheaths nerves in the brain, has a high iron content.

Research suggests that the dietary iron you eat as a teenager can protect brain integrity later in life.

Zinc

Zinc plays an essential role in regulating communication between brain cells and may also be involved in governing memory formation: the highest concentrations of brain zinc are located among neurons of the hippocampus, the ‘nerve centre’ of learning and memory.

Unsurprisingly, chronic zinc deficiency has been linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Well-powered clinical studies (including this one) have also demonstrated the benefits of supplemental zinc for depression.

Water

The brain is mostly water (80%), and proper hydration is better than just about anything for cognition and concentration.

Water helps with memory retention and mood, while increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It can reduce headaches and anxiety and improve problem-solving.

It should go without saying, but making sure you drink enough water every day is very important for brain health, just as it is for general health.

Although the aforementioned nutrients are the only ones mentioned as having any benefits for the brain in the Register, a body of evidence shows positive associations between other nutrients and brain function.

Most particularly, nutrients like EPA (a vital hormonal component of brain cells), vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium and B vitamins.

What to Eat for Brain Health

In general, eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains appears to be beneficial for long-term brain health. In this respect, a brain-healthy diet is not all that dissimilar from a heart-healthy diet.

That said, there are some differences and certain foods which appear to be more central to brain health than heart health. Indeed, there are several foods which appear to offer a protective effect against age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Eating mushrooms more than twice a week, for example, may prevent memory and language problems occurring in over-60s. This is due to the presence of a unique antioxidant in mushrooms.

Low DHA levels have been repeatedly linked to a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s and memory loss, again emphasising the value of including fatty oily fish in your diet.

Other foods which are commonly touted for their brain health benefits, usually due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, include blueberries, blackcurrants, leafy greens, turmeric, tomatoes, avocados, nuts and pumpkin seeds, oranges, eggs, dark chocolate and both coffee and green tea.

If you are keen to preserve brain health throughout your life, it’s as much about what to avoid as what to add to your basket. With this in mind, swerve – or try to limit your consumption of – pro-inflammatory oils like canola and sunflower, fried foods and trans fats, sugar-sweetened drinks, refined carbs and alcohol, the latter of which is a nervous system depressant.

Eating a poor diet can set the stage for cognitive decline including memory problems and, yes, even Alzheimer’s. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important, as evidenced by a 2019 study showing that excess pounds on the body equates to less brain volume.

Nutritional Psychiatry: Can Good Food Boost Mood?


Coined to describe the positive effect of food on markers of depression, nutritional psychiatry is a burgeoning field of research that offers hope to the tens of millions of people currently using antidepressant medication.

Numerous studies show that diets largely composed of the nutritious foods mentioned earlier – namely fish, vegetables, fruit and unrefined whole grains – correlate with low depression and anxiety.

The SMILES trial, published in 2017, was just one of them: 67 depressed people were recruited and given either sessions with a clinical dietician or ‘social support’. After three months, a third of the nutrition group were in remission, compared to just 8% of the social support group.

There was also a study of 60,000 Australians by the University of Sydney which showed that every extra vegetable you add to your plate lowers overall stress levels by 5%.

The World Journal of Psychiatry, meanwhile, identified a dozen ‘antidepressant nutrients’ in a 2018 paper investigating the potential for foods to both prevent and treat depressive disorders. They were: iron, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, thiamine (a.k.a vitamin B1), vitamin B6, folate (a.k.a vitamin B9) and vitamin B12.

The highest-scoring foods, incidentally, were oysters, mussels and other seafoods; organ meats; leafy greens, lettuces, peppers and cruciferous vegetables.

The role of our gut microbiota has been increasingly highlighted in recent years, with the term ‘mind-gut connection’ achieving popularity. It essentially describes the bidirectional links between the state of the gut and the brain: the influence of intestinal organisms on neurotransmitter production; the role of the cranial nerve extending from brain stem to abdomen.

Serotonin, the so-called feel-good hormone, is predominantly manufactured by nerves in your gut. Thus, the importance of maintaining gut health to promote mental function is quite clear.

Much has been written about the mind-gut connection, and the possible role probiotics have to play. The reasoning goes something like this: if we can positively influence our microbiome by introducing probiotics, perhaps we can improve mood and protect the ageing brain.

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi and kefir are the best dietary sources of probiotics, but if you’re going to incorporate a supplement, go for a high-strength option like Progurt: it contains considerably more beneficial bacteria than any other, and its bacterial strains are human-origin. Just disperse a sachet in water and drink.

Low-Carb Diets and Brain Health

As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are the only macronutrient cited by the EU Register on Nutrition and Health Claims as having a tangible benefit for the brain. However, those largely eschewing carbohydrates needn’t worry.

On a carb-restrictive ketogenic diet, the brain is mainly fuelled by ketones rather than glucose from carbohydrates.

However, it can still obtain glucose from the body’s natural process of gluconeogenesis, facilitated by the liver.

Indeed, there is a widening body of clinical evidence highlighting the benefits for the brain of low-carbohydrate diets – specifically for psychiatric and cognitive disorders.

In one groundbreaking study from 2018, people with mild Alzheimer’s disease were able to improve their brain function by eating a ketogenic diet and thus elevating their blood ketone levels over a three-month period.

The take-home? Carbs can fuel the brain, but they aren’t the only source. For a snapshot of the research in this field, this Healthline article is a valuable resource.

Conclusion

Brain function is undoubtedly food- and water-dependent. However, it is challenging to comprehensively describe the various mechanisms at work.

What is clear is that we can, to a large degree, protect our brains and fend off depression by paying close attention to the food that goes in our mouth; by drinking plenty of water; and by assiduously ensuring we avoid nutritional deficiencies.

If you need to quickly reverse a deficiency, meanwhile, a high-quality supplement is a good place to start.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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